Tips for reducing your business’ impact on the environment

Boulder is not only a beautiful place to live, but with its vibrant economy, it’s a great place to operate a business. Over the years, the city of Boulder and Boulder County have taken numerous steps to improve environmental sustainability in our community, especially in the area of waste diversion. Boulder’s recycling and compost rate of 39 percent is more than three times the state average, but we can do better, as more than 60 percent of our total waste is still sent to a landfill.

As discussed in my previous column, the city implemented the Universal Zero Waste Ordinance in June 2016 to reduce material sent to the landfill and has numerous resources available to help businesses comply with the ordinance.

It’s our experience that local businesses want to do their part to reduce their environmental impact and comply with all ordinances addressing waste, but in many cases, it’s hard to know where to begin. To assist, we have compiled a list of tips to help companies get started or improve the diversion programs at your business.

Start right

A key for any business waste-diversion program is ensuring that both your collection system and staff are set for success.  Here are a few key steps to ensure your business is ready.

• Identify specific areas inside your office to place interior collection bins.  The key is to make it easy and convenient for your employees to do the right thing.  For example, usually the best area for compost container is in the break room(s).

  Set trash, recycle and compost containers next to each other to make a “zero-waste station.”  This keeps employees from having to search for the right bin.

• Distinguish the containers by differing color, stickers and/or lids. Common colors are black for trash, blue for recycle, green for compost.

• Provide signs above the containers that identify which materials go in which bin.

• Plastic bags cannot be composted; be sure to use compostable bags in compost receptacles.

• Make sure that compost containers are emptied as often as your trash.  This will help eliminate issues with odor, flies, etc.

• Host an all-company meeting or send a companywide email announcing the start of the recycling or compost service.  In addition, make sure to educate the janitorial staff on the new program to ensure that the bins are emptied to the proper collection containers outside.

Diversion tips

Once your business has things started, here are a few tips to help with your diversion efforts.

Opportunities in the breakroom/kitchen:

• Consider using washable dishes, mugs and silverware vs. disposables.

• If you are using disposables, consider switching to compostable serving-ware.  However, if you do switch to compostable serving-ware, make sure all of it is compostable.  This will simplify disposal for your staff and lead to less contamination.

• Remember paper towels are compostable!  This includes those from the break room and kitchen, as well as from the bathrooms.  A good idea is to switch those bathroom trash bins to compost bins, as most of the waste from the bathroom is paper towels.

• Consider a water cooler and reusable cups vs. bottled water for employees and guests.

• While convenient and easy to use, every year, we send 10 billion of single-service coffee maker pods to the landfill.   If your business uses a single-serve coffee maker, compostable coffee pods are now available. Check out for information on this option.

Reduce what you use so you don’t have to throw it away:

• Establish a culture of “do you really need to print?” If you do print, make sure double-sided printing is the default setting on the printers and also encourage people to use those inevitable “printing mistakes” for scratch paper, note taking, etc.

• Eliminate the many catalogs that may come to your business.  Call the company and tell them to remove your business from their mailing list.

• Consider subscribing to the digital version of magazines, newspapers, other publications, etc. You can (and should!) still support media outlets by paying for online subscriptions to augment paper copies.

Don’t forget about old technology equipment:

• Contemplate the efficacy of hand-me-down tech: Rather than tossing old monitors, look for opportunities to re-use. Maybe an older monitor could serve as a welcome screen for visitors, or be given to an employee for a second monitor at home. If you don’t have a re-use option, make sure to recycle it properly.  In Boulder, these items can be taken to the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM).

• There are many charities and organizations right here in Boulder that will re-use or recycle old cellphones, digital cameras, iPods, and iPads.  Check out Cellular Recycling ( or the Wireless Alliance (

Think about used or vintage office furniture instead of buying new pieces.  For example, BC Interiors here in Boulder has a whole inventory of used office furniture.  Check it out at

In the end, increasing our diversion and cutting down on waste is a team effort. It is crucial that we all carry our weight and strive to reduce our environmental impact.

Kevin Afflerbaugh is environmental coordinator for Western Disposal Services Inc. He can be reached at 303-448-2332 or


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